Accepted paper:

Missing persons in Bosnia-Herzegovina: absent citizens and broken family lines

Author:

Laura Huttunen (Tampere University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic research on missing persons in Bosnia, this paper explores the missing as simultaneously absent citizens and absent family members; practices of identification and commemoration are explored as translating knowledge from kinship idiom to bureaucratic and political domains.

Paper long abstract:

This paper addresses the interconnectedness of state citizenship and kinship through an ethnographic study of the question of missing persons in Bosnia-Herzegovina. People who go missing for extended periods of time in armed conflicts or as victims of genocidal political projects are absent simultaneously from their families and from the state structure as bureaucratically recognized citizens. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, there were some 30 000 people missing in 1995 when the armed conflict ended. If ethnicity is understood as kinship writ large, the genocidal violence that targeted people based on their ethno-national belonging violated family ties and citizenship rights simultaneously. At the same time, the violence was a horrifying act of trying to define the legitimate citizenship in the emerging new state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. While searching for the missing has been a harrowing experience for the families who have been forced to find ways to live with the painful absence, the unwillingness of local authorities to initiate and carry out searching for and identification of the missing reflects the deep connection between the creation of the Bosnian state and the violence targeting families. In the painful processes of searching for and identifying the missing, knowledge needs to be translated from one domain to another, from kinship idiom to bureaucratically recognized missing persons status and from kinship idiom to DNA-codification that translates kinship into DNA-charts. Finally, practices of commemorating the identified missing in present day Bosnia seek to return the missing as rightful citizens back to the body politic.

panel P054
Kinning the state - state kinning: reconnecting the anthropology of kinship and political anthropology